As Europe scrambles for alternative gas supplies in the wake of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid a visit to Algeria, a gas-producing country.
Algeria is a major gas provider to Europe, accounting for 11% of its imports versus 47% from Russia.
When the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in March urging Russia’s prompt withdrawal from Ukraine, Algiers abstained.
“We very much appreciate Algeria’s considered, objective and balanced position on the Ukrainian question,” Lavrov told journalists after meeting his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
In order to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, Italy, Spain, and other European Union member countries have turned to Algeria.
Algeria, however, has consistently stated that it lacks the capacity to supply such demand in the short term, despite its desire to strengthen its long-standing cooperation with Russia.
When asked about Algeria’s gas deliveries, Lavrov stated that Russia, Algeria, and other gas producers “think we should follow existing agreements.”
Moscow’s top diplomat said trade between the two countries had hit $3 billion last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many Russian companies are interested in carrying out joint ventures with Algerian companies” particularly in energy and pharmaceuticals, he said.
Both sides discussed “enhancing military and technical cooperation,” according to Lavrov.
His visit is his first since January 2019, and it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.
According to state media, Lavrov also lay a wreath at a memorial to combatants murdered during Algeria’s war for independence from France.
When asked about the European Union’s top diplomat’s idea that frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves be confiscated to pay for Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction, Lavrov denounced it as “a theft that they’re not even attempting to hide.”
Josep Borrell made the remark in a Financial Times interview published on Monday.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with his Algerian counterpart on “OPEC coordination as well as the situation in Ukraine,” according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
OPEC is a forum for controlling supply and prices that brings together the OPEC oil cartel with associate producers led by Russia.
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